My Experience with Buddhism Pt. 2 (Agnosticism)

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Tuesday, December 13, 2022, 16:19 (527 days ago) @ dhw

So the teaching you're taking issue with earlier *must* be taken alongside this (and other) daily practice(s). In my view, there is absolutely no way that the teaching you worried about can lead to the sort of nihilism that you're reading into it when several of the bedrock teachings stem from this metta sutta. Whatever we incline our minds towards--is where our minds go. We can't *control* our mind, but we can dig ruts into the road to help guide us where we want to go. I read that teaching in this way: an untrained person will always be at the whims of wherever their mind is blowing. Like a monkey travelling from vine to vine, their mind flies and they damage themselves and others. Anger is the best study for this: it takes alot of training and effort to handle anger in ways that won't cause us to lash out at other people. Because we wish to inflect ourselves on a path towards a kinder place, having that thought in the back of our minds we will more skillfully keep anger at bay, and transform its energies into constructive rather than destructive change. I think it's important to refer back to the ancient Greeks and Romans who believed emotions were thrown upon us by the Gods themselves. We realize that emotions are internal to us now, but we shouldn't throw away their insight that emotions don't typically come on command: That's why their explanations moved to external causes: Why do I experience Anger even when I don't want to be angry? The Stoics--a group I have a feeling you'll view as dour as well--developed many techniques to handle anger.

Buddhism altered how I view happiness: Happiness is contentment. And let me add to that: What if we could learn to be content with less? Consumerism is the obvious choice here to make a point. No matter how many things I buy, happiness isn't in accumulation despite what our marketing agents want us to believe. This I didn't need to be taught, but the Buddha's teaching on craving for sense desires perfectly aligns with a disenchantment I learned ages ago towards fashion trends. To this day I have a wardrobe that doesn't extend beyond about 20 shirts and maybe half that of pants and I replace things only when they wear out. I have two pairs of shoes and one pair of hiking boots. One pair of sandals. I have a tendency to buy too many books and have plenty that I will probably never read before I die. (Here I've done better--I've taken to using the library and am trying to pare down that collection to something much more manageable. I've bought two in the last year.)

Books and music provide temporary bursts of joy but the teachings help me to realize that joy like all things has a beginning, middle, and end. Okay, this is all stuff I've talked about with other Buddhists and my monk friend, and nobody once has said that any of this is contrary to the path. Food and many of the things of daily life, provide small sparks of joy, but none of that provides a lasting contentment. Due to these practices, what I would describe as large swaths of just neutral feeling that was punctuated by small sparks of joy through food, music, conversation etc. has been replaced with a sort of warm glow of contentment--I've learned how to be happy when not doing anything in particular. I've even used the meditation techniques to stop an 8yr long 750ml+/day drinking habit. Addiction is in my view, just the same pattern of pleasure seeking we all share--only turned towards substances that have harmful effects. At any rate, me building a book collection I'll never read is little different than a drinking habit. They're both attempting to satisfy cravings, and both lead to bad consequences--buying books I'll never read when I know full well I already have books I haven't read is more mundane but illustrative: I'm out of control. (My mom is a hoarder, and I try to keep that in mind.)

Now your monastics will practice to become disenchanted with everything but that feeling of pervasive contentment. That's really the only difference between the monks and us "normies." None of this quite gets at the point that started this thread, but you seemed to have such a negative and dour view on Buddhism that I felt it necessary to give you a little flavor as to what it means for me. To answer your question, yeah these thoughts pop in "my" head, but I don't understand myself to be anything more than the confluence of consciousness and conditioning that was born 40odd years ago, and if things go the way I figure they will, will eventually support daisies. I won't get to take any of those thoughts with me. So they're not *me*, in an ultimate sense. The hardcore Buddhists--they clearly think I'll carry on somehow, and I'm still researching and waiting on my monk to call me back to try and give us both better answers.

\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

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